Ask GV: Never Ask a God To Do a Villain’s Job

Reader Swordgleam, on behalf of an interested third party who is definitely not a paladin of Torog or anything like that, asks:

Dear Generic Villain,

One of my protagonists has angered a dark god. You’d think that would be the end of him, right? Wrong. That protagonist also has a goddess on his side, and if the deities throw down, it could get ugly. So now the they’re being passive-aggressive and settling their grievances indirectly – which gives the protagonist a chance to strike a blow for the forces of light. How can I convince the evil god that he should just lightning bolt this sucker, consequences be damned? (No pun intended.)

Dear Definitely-Not-a-Paladin,

You have my sympathy. There’s nothing more obnoxious than knowing you’ve got a dangerous do-gooder in the works and a god who could handle it but won’t intervene. Unfortunately, even dark gods like ours need to follow rules. So getting divine lightning to the back some dark night probably isn’t in the cards for your little hero.

This doesn’t, however, mean that he can’t be dealt with. The problem is that all of the options will require you to get involved, and most of them are pretty risky one way or another. The things we do for our contracts!

I’m going to assume for the moment that you are divinely connected to the god in question; if you aren’t, you can just get someone who is to play middleman, or slip this under their door so they’ll take care of it themselves. (If someone who is so connected is above you in rank, getting them to follow these instructions might be good for your own standing; if they’re successful, they find you clever, and if not, they’re not between you and your promotion. Win-win.)

First, attempt to get in contact with your god to figure out if there’s a workaround to the dangers of divine throwdown. One on one god-fights are a mess, yes. But one-on-several aren’t. You might be able to avoid retaliation by arranging a temporary truce between the evil gods—after all, they’re all probably getting messed up by Miss Goddess of Sweetness and Light playing patron for her new pet mortal. Or maybe there’s some other way to point out that She Started It.

If the first fails, it’s time to start exploiting technicalities. Your god is, at this point, limited to dealing with intermediaries, because of the passive-aggressive mechanics of divine interference. But if that goddess can choose a mortal, so can your god—and you’re probably just the person to take on the role. So volunteer to be the god’s hand, and the vector by which the divine lightning reaches that big-headed little hero. It provides the appropriate degree of separation, deals with the empowered meddler (with the added bonus of letting you see him fall), and as a side bonus, you get a taste of Divine Power*. The catch is that you’ll probably need to demonstrate your loyalty first—and yes, there is that risk of being beaten anyway.

Another edge to exploit is the simple fact that limitations good for one god are good for all of them. If the goddess makes the first move, your god will be justified. The catch is that someone will need to provoke her by going after her mortal—and that someone is probably you. I strongly suggest acquiring protection from her variety of Divine Smiting first.

For the more PR-oriented or trickery-specialized Hand of Darkness, there is another solution. Hero’s a problem because of a goddess’s favor? Get him out of favor by convincing him not to be something his goddess would want to favor. The best way to do this isn’t to go directly against the god’s ideals—that makes too many waves. Instead, it’s to set him up with situations in which his moral code can be taken to unpleasant extremes or in which the choice is between the goddess’s agenda and the behaviors she espouses. Push him far enough, and his definition of what’s right and the goddess’s may diverge. And when that reaches its inevitable conclusion, or when he realizes her code is holding him back and quits her service, she may well be looking for excuses to smite him herself.

Either way, you’re the one who’s going to have to make the first move. The Powers help those who help themselves!

*Warning: Side effects of Divine Power may include personality changes, alterations of form, increased collateral damage, and a greater propensity towards maniacal laughter. Divine Power is known to have addictive properties. Channeling Divine Power while pregnant may lead to Children of Destiny. If you feel yourself burning out from the inside when channeling Divine Power, consult a cleric immediately. I know it’s silly, but I have to deliver the warning.

Feel free to ask your own questions; we don’t bite!

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